(Published in The Sunday Guardian, on 4 February 2012, retrieved from http://www.sunday-guardian.
Cast: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B Jordan
Director: Josh Trank
Rating: 3.5 stars
We’ve seen those kids skulking around – the scrawny ones, whose hunted-yet-hostile gazes creep us out. They’re from broken homes. It’s hard to think they were once loved. They’ll probably do a school shootout before killing themselves; or die of drug overdose on the streets. But what if someone popular were to turn back and smile? To acknowledge a talent in them, and pull them into the ‘it’ crowd?
Chronicle envisions something along these lines – with telekinesis thrown in. We meet Andrew (Dane DeHaan), his abusive ex-fireman father, his dying mother, his cool cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and Matt’s cooler friend Steve (Michael B Jordan) through the camera. Andrew’s the weird guy the cheerleaders are wary of. He’s the target of the “official douchebags” down the street. He’s the one who gets beaten up by the boyfriends of girls he gawks at.
Matt is happy to help his awkward cousin out on the party circuit. Matt’s the guy everyone wants to date, everyone except the cynical, studious girl who has a video blog. He can interpret Schopenhauer, say parties are “ways of seeking widespread validation” and quote Jung till kingdom come, but she won’t put out until he proves he can be a loser too.
Typical teen movie, you think. And even when Steve, Matt and Andrew chance upon a superpower, they live up to the film’s tagline, “boys will be boys”. They take us back to a time when we giggled at the word “vibrate”, they trip on customers at a convenience store, they joke about sharing abdomen guards, they choke over, “Oh, ignore us...we’re...we’re just...Mormons!” And their inarticulacy finds expression thus: “Today was, like, the best day of my life...like, I’m thinking, and I can’t, like, think of any day that’s, like, better...” They dream of going to Tibet to “mess with [the monks’] heads”, but reject it because Tibet has no bikinis.
The idea that uncontrollable power can have nasty consequences, hinted at earlier, snowballs in the second half. Suddenly, one of these guys is saying, “the lion doesn’t feel guilty when it kills a gazelle; you don’t feel guilty when you squash a fly”. Sensible enough to keep to 80-odd minutes, the film draws the viewer in. DeHaan, who reminds me at times of a younger Leonardo DiCaprio, shows great promise.
Verdict: The film lets itself down a notch at the end, and the graphics could have been neater, but good casting, natural acting and clever use of the found-footage formula make it work.